UK Government Expected to Scrap Gender Recognition Act Reforms

The GRA reforms would have simplified the process required for trans people to change their legal gender.
September 21, 2020, 4:45pm
Two transmasculine people sitting together and having a serious conversation
Photo: The Gender Spectrum Collection.

The UK government will scrap proposals to make it easier for trans people to change their legal gender, The Sunday Times has reported.

Reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), devised under Theresa May’s government in 2018, proposed legislative changes that would make the process of changing the sex on a person’s birth certificate less costly, time-consuming and medically invasive. Ministers have dropped these plans, according to The Sunday Times, instead opting to reduce the cost of applications to amend birth certificates.

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Currently, in order to change the sex specified on their birth certificate, transgender people must pay £140 to apply for a gender recognition certificate. They must then prove that they have lived as the gender they identify with for two years to a panel of legal and medical professionals. They must also be diagnosed as having gender dysphoria from two separate doctors.

The decision to scrap reforms to the GRA comes after a lengthy consultation process at a time when debates around the rights of trans people have polarised the news. Many transphobic voices have dominated the media, including author JK Rowling, sitcom writer Graham Linehan and numerous broadsheet columnists.

In response to the news, a petition in favour of GRA reform has garnered almost 75,000 signatures. It claims that 70 percent of responses to the government’s 2018 consultation on the subject were in favour of reform.

VICE News reached out to the Gender and Equalities Office. A spokesperson did not confirm or deny the claims that the GRA reforms would be dropped, but said that “the Minister for Women and Equalities will provide the government’s response to the Gender Recognition Act this week”.

While the reported abandonment of GRA reform is disappointing for those fighting for trans rights, the decision is perhaps not surprising. In June, leaked documents showed that the GRA reforms would be replaced by new measures that “protect ‘safe spaces’ for women” and tighter guidelines on gender neutral bathrooms.

LGBTQ campaign group Stonewall said that it would continue to stand up for the rights of trans people. “If today's report is true and the government doesn't move forward with real GRA reform, it will be a bitter blow for trans people,” they wrote on Twitter. “But what hasn't changed is trans people's legal right to access single-sex spaces in line with the gender they identify with.”

“What also won't change is the fact that Stonewall will continue to work with trans communities and trans-led organisations to build a world where all of us can be accepted without exception,” the organisation continued. “We will get there, together.”